The Reality Café Dream

The Reality Café Dream

For many people, “religion” has left a bad taste in their mouth. They see a world where people wage war over their conflicting beliefs, where injustice seeks to justify itself theologically, where suffering is inflicted in the name of an unfeeling god. And “church” too often carries connotations of cruelty, condemnation, and corruption, heartlessness and hypocrisy, and other toxic attitudes and behavior.

By contrast, a café or restaurant — a place where you can gather with family or friends to enjoy your favorite food, laugh and engage in animated conversation, celebrate life, share your latest joys and struggles with people you trust and you know care about you, and generally have a great and memorable time — has a universal appeal.

I recently had a dream in which someone gave me several million dollars to open a chain of restaurants named Reality Café, in big cities and small towns alike, where people of all beliefs or none could come together to discuss in a friendly and honest fashion the Big Questions of Life: who we are, where we came from, where we’re going, and how we can find happiness, meaning, and fulfillment in our lives.

The concept of Reality Café was that you (and any friends you might wish to invite) could come into a warm and welcoming environment, order your favorite food and drink, and it would be “on the house,” so long as you were willing to engage in a delightful discussion — fragrant with friendliness, tasty with truth, sizzling with sagacity, seasoned with wit — with select dinner companions, a discussion that would advance you in a structured, step-by-step fashion from wherever you were in your beliefs (or non-belief) to wherever you need to be.

The conversation would proceed from the “appetizer” phase to the “soup and/or salad” phase, then on to the first main course, the second course, and so forth, culminating in the top-it-all-off final dessert-like dénouement of the discussion. (For a more detailed explanation of that sequence, please see this website’s August 30 and 31 blog posts on “So Is Reality a Café or a Baseball Diamond?”, Parts 1 and 2.)

While I’m waiting for that multi-million-dollar donation to drop into my lap to make my restaurant-chain dream a reality, in the meantime this website seeks to be the online equivalent of such an idea-ingesting experience. Although (alas!) I cannot yet provide the literal culinary content, I do hope to serve up a literary likeness thereof, an appealing banquet of belief-themed conversations that can gently, lovingly, respectfully, yet purposefully lead each of us (myself included) toward an ever more coherent, consistent, authentic, and rewarding grasp of reality.

Bon appétit!

Making It Home: Is Reality a Café or a Baseball Diamond, Part 2

Making It Home: Is Reality a Café or a Baseball Diamond, Part 2

As I continue to unfold my analogy of rounding the bases of a baseball diamond as a representation of  the logical steps one must proceed through to arrive at the correct religious position, please don’t misunderstand either this or my previous post. I’m not claiming to have proven anything yet.

Theoretically speaking, there might be no such thing as objective truth. Reason might not be able to reliably deduce anything. There might not be a Supreme Being like God. Christ might not be divine, but merely a man and no more. Or someone might accept the first point (the existence of objective truth), but not the second (the reliability of reason); or accept the first and second but not the third (the existence of God); or accept the first three but not the fourth (the deity of Christ).

logicsignI haven’t yet made arguments for any of the above. I’m simply sketching out the logical sequence in which those arguments need to be made, the order in which in fact they traditionally have been made. There’s no point, for example, in beginning by seeking to prove that Christ is God to someone who doesn’t believe that such a being as God exists. Likewise, there’s no point in arguing for the existence of God with someone who doesn’t believe in the validity of rational arguments, or believe in the existence of anything outside his or her own subjectivity.

womanshopping(I say “his or her” out of deference to the current craze for always insisting on inclusive language, but in my experience it’s only been males who fall for the easily-refuted — in fact self-refuting — delusion that there is no such thing as objective reality that exists outside of ourselves. Women tend to be much more intelligent and intuitive than men on this point, and all women automatically accept that a whole world of objective reality exists outside of themselves, which is why women go shopping.)

(For the demonstration that the denial of objective reality is self-refuting, see the next — forthcoming — post in this series, “Do You Object to Objective Truth?”)

So back to our now-familiar baseball analogy. If the case for Christianity as the true theism (which we’ll be making in upcoming posts) successfully convinces us, we’ve made it to second base. But just as when we previously arrived at first base, we discover that the game’s not over yet. Just as on first base, there’s a confusing cacophony of voices on second base, all claiming to represent the Christianity we’ve come expecting to embrace. There are Quakers and Baptists and Pentecostals and Methodists, independent fundamentalists and Congregationalists and Disciples of Christ, Lutherans and Presbyterians and Anglicans, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and Catholics — to say nothing of the relatively recently-minted Christian sects (most of them “made in the USA”): Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists and still others. What do we do with these conflicting claims?

scrollOne obvious approach would be to study the original “founding documents” of Christianity (the books making up the New Testament), and perhaps the writings of the early Christians who received, reflected on, and taught the New Testament (the men we call the “early Church Fathers”), to ascertain what they believed. One would want to know what original Christianity looked like, and when and where other forms began to diverge from the original article — began to stray from the “straight and narrow” way.

Protestantism (in its tens of thousands of varieties) claims that Catholicism (in the West) and Eastern Orthodoxy (in the East) represent this gradual divergence from the original Faith, until having crossed a line they collapsed into a contaminated mess of medieval superstition that was no longer faithful to Scripture, and that Protestantism was, beginning 500 years ago, a recovery of the pristine  purity of the gospel (the “good news” of the Christian message), which obliged it to break away from the rottenness of Roman Catholicism in the Western Church.

That’s a position I well understand, having held it with fierce conviction for 14 years, from the age of 14 to the age of 28. (The first 14 years of my life I was raised in, and professed, no form of Christianity, either Protestant or Catholic, or any other religious faith, for that matter.) When I became a fervent Protestant as a freshman in high school, I discovered and made my own the attitude toward Roman Catholicism expressed by the original Protestant Reformers: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer, and others.

Catholics, of course, take a very different view of the matter. (To be continued)


Confidence Amidst Chaos: How to Have Peace in a Peaceless World

Confidence Amidst Chaos: How to Have Peace in a Peaceless World

Welcome to Reality Café!

Welcome to Reality Café!

Greetings and welcome! Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, atheist, agnostic, New Age, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Vatican II Catholic, traditional Catholic, or not sure, you are welcome here, and I care about you. Having come to believe in God (by God’s grace), I believe God loves us just the way we are, but I also believe He loves us too much to leave us that way (since none of us has yet become all we’re meant to be).

womancryingAnyone who’s been living on this planet for a few years has discovered that amidst the many joys of life there are also many disappointments, failures, pain, and suffering. There are people I care deeply about all over the world who struggle with one or more of the following: doubt, guilt, anxiety and/or depression, physical or mental illness or disability, poverty, unemployment, career failures or other reversals of fortune, addictions (drug, alcohol, sexual, etc.), failed marriages, abortions, children born out of wedlock, children who have committed suicide or who have abandoned the beliefs and values with which they were raised, incarceration for crime, a destroyed reputation … the list could go on and on.

My heart goes out to each and every one of them, as well as to all people who are tormented by any of these things but whom I’ve never met.

silhouettekneelingWithout wishing to sound superficial or glib, I do believe — and know, from my own 56 years of lived experience — that in the midst of our sufferings there can nevertheless be serenity, security, and genuine emotional and spiritual healing and wholeness. And I believe that true, deep, lasting happiness, both here and hereafter, is only achieved when our hearts and minds — our entire lives — are freely, fully, and finally conformed to God’s mind and will.

I understand that you may not believe that yet. Come on in to Reality Café with an open mind, and let’s talk!

Best wishes for your happiness now and always,
Gerry Matatics